verb (used with object)
- to mark off as different (often followed by from or by): He was distinguished from the other boys by his height.
- to recognize as distinct or different; recognize the salient or individual features or characteristics of: It is hard to distinguish her from her twin sister.
- to perceive clearly by sight or other sense; discern; recognize: He could not distinguish many of the words.
- to set apart as different; be a distinctive characteristic of; characterize: It is his Italian accent that distinguishes him.
- to make prominent, conspicuous, or eminent: to distinguish oneself in battle.
- to divide into classes; classify: Let us distinguish the various types of metaphor.
- Archaic. to single out for or honor with special attention.
verb (used without object)
- to indicate or show a difference (usually followed by between).
- to recognize or note differences; discriminate.
verb (mainly tr)
- (when intr, foll by between or among) to make, show, or recognize a difference or differences (between or among); differentiate (between)
- to be a distinctive feature of; characterize
- to make out; perceive
- to mark for a special honour or title
- to make (oneself) noteworthyhe distinguished himself by his cowardice
- to classify; categorizewe distinguished three species
1560s, from Middle French distinguiss-, stem of distinguer, or directly from Latin distinguere “to separate between, separate by pricking,” from dis- “apart” (see dis-) + -stinguere “to prick” (see extinguish, and cf. Latin instinguere “to incite, impel”).
The suffix -ish is due to the influence of many verbs in which it is the equivalent of Old French -iss-, ultimately from Latin inchoative suffix -iscere (this is also the case in extinguish, admonish, and astonish). Related: Distinguishing. The earlier form of the verb was distinguen (mid-14c.).